Tank Lanning

Rugby World Cup road trip

2015-06-25 08:40
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

Hell it was fun re-watching the ’95 World Cup final on Wednesday while being able to follow the surviving players, invited to a function at Ellis Park to mark the occasion, as they tweeted their thoughts throughout the game. That is social media at its very best and pure marketing genius. Well done SARU!

Speaking of tweeting, it was damn nigh impossible to tweet during the game such was the pace at which things happened. Ed Morrison would blow his whistle for an infringement and before you could even reach for your phone, let alone a beer, the ball had been fed into a scrum (sans any pre engagement rigmarole) or lineout (sans any lifting and with one arm throws) and was hitting the flyhalf or centre via a monster pass from Joost van der Westhuizen!

Players may be faster, stronger and generally better conditioned these days, but my word, there were without doubt far fewer stoppages prior to the game going professional. Today the game will stop for a back to tie his bootlaces, in those days it would not even stop for a front row injury. No wonder coach Kitch Christie wanted them to be the fittest side in the tournament.

As Brendan Venter Tweeted after the game: “The game has definitely changed, but not all for the better”.

What a truly amazing day though, both in terms of the rugby (not only the game, but the sport in general, that being the last of the amateur era), and what the tournament did for our fledgling Rainbow Nation. I remember it like it was yesterday!

I was a student at UCT at the time and the Australian Rugby Union had contacted the Western Province Rugby Union to ask if any of the young contracted players were available to drive their Chairman (and one of the five directors of the World Cup) during the tournament. Rob Brink, always keen to make a few extra bucks, was duly nominated. This before he began playing the best rugby of his life which got him selected into Christie’s Bok squad. As a housemate of Rob’s and also a contracted WP player, I was asked if I would replace Brink… hence me spending the tournament in the company of one Leo Williams!

A truly great man, who sadly passed away in 2009, he will be remembered as the co-creator of SANZAR. Together with our own Louis Luyt and Richie Guy from New Zealand, his was one of the three signatories on the broadcasting contract with News Limited which heralded the professional era.

An ex-Queensland prop, we connected from minute one… so come the business end of the tournament, Leo managed to swing me 10 tickets to the final. You can just imagine how popular I suddenly became. So three of us poured ourselves into my 3rd hand two door BMW and headed to the Big Smoke for the Big Game.

My tactical play was to give the folks of the mate we were staying with two tickets to the game, and they in turn threw us a pre-game braai of fairly industrial proportions! I might have had a nap just before half-time (while seated on the halfway line in an 80 000 strong stadium filled to the brim) after earning the nickname “Ten Beer Tankie” at the braai. Might have…

Post-match, looking for the next place to wet a dry throat, we stumbled into James Dalton. Having played SA Schools with him in ’89, and obviously hoping to impress our merry throng, I put my arm around him and asked how he was. “Who the f#*k are you?” came the aggressive reply, much to the mirth of mates, some of whom still dine out on that dastardly tale!

These were heady times for a young player whose career had been cut short a few months earlier because of a double compression fracture via a scrum that did not set correctly!

My only regret? Turning down Leo’s invite to have a beer with him after his monumental post-final meeting with Ross Turnbull and his Kerry Packer backed World Rugby Championship, where he, Luyt and Guy changed the game of rugby forever. It was only after reading Peter Fitzsimons “The Rugby War” that I realised what Leo and his team of negotiators had been through. They really saved rugby and made it the professional game that it is today. It was only a few years later that his wife, Nancye, told me how disappointed he had been at the time.

I consider myself seriously lucky to have had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know such a good man and be so closely involved in what was a momentous event for South Africa.

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    tank lanning  |  rugby

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